Assembly attacks civil liberties

By Neil Moore,

As the G8 draws nearer, the capitalist media and the Assembly Executive have really stepped up their offensive on those planning to engage in peaceful protest. Every few days we see a new report that demonises and smears anyone exercising their democratic right to protest as either “dissident republicans planning major disruption and loss of life” or “crazed anarchists planning acid attacks on police”. This smear is an attempt to put off large numbers of workers and young people who are opposed to the G8’s policies and the systemic crisis they preside over from participating in the demonstration planned in Fermanagh.

All the Assembly parties are standing by this outright attacks on civil liberties. The Alliance Party’s Justice Minister David Ford recently announced that magistrates must make themselves available for late night and Sunday sittings of court: “We need to ensure that our police and court systems can operate swiftly and effectively in the eyes of the world”. He then added “We need to ensure those arrested can be brought quickly to court from police cells and for judges to make decisions on remands into prison custody.” Sunday sittings in court brings into question the possibility of mass pre-emptive arrests of protesters as was seen with the Royal wedding, where bail conditions were imposed preventing campaigners from attending protests.

The Assembly has also approved the use of an unused 108-capacity unit at Maghaberry high security prison and a former army barracks in Co Tyrone has been converted to house anyone charged at the G8. These measures were requested by the PSNI without any opposition from any of the politicians on the Policing Board. This criminalisation of peaceful protest can of course be used after the G8 – it’s negative legacy will potentially see harsher penalties for those engaging in their democratic right to protest the absurdities of the system the G8 presides over.

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